100 Sculptures – NYC – The Brooklyn Rail
June 30 – August 21, 2021
Stroll around the two floating shelves suspended from the ceiling to 100 sculptures at the anonymous gallery you have something of the sense of wonder that must have invigorated Darwin, fresh off from HMS Beagle, wandering and investigating the sometimes familiar, but often alien, species of the Galapagos. Todd von Ammon and the gallery have organized together a menagerie of forms: these objects can illustrate the history of sculpture, they certainly represent its different categories and typologies, and all are very small. They moved from the figurative to the abstract, from the absurd and surreal to the conceptual and symbolic.
Faces and body parts in particular are immediately imprinted on our perception. B. Thom Stevenson’s My eyes are up there (2018) is the simplest rendering of a face: two circles punched into a larger circle of steel emerging from a shallow plateau, while Kristin Reger’s Swerving (2018) confronts us with a tongue of gray and pink glossy sandstone, and that of Nevine Mahmoud Tutti glass (2018) takes the form of an elongated glass chest. Still in ceramic, Hugo Montoya created a hybrid of a phallus and a woman’s torso in Venus penis (2018), an erotic container carrying a handle. The motivation for turning these small items into practical tools also seems logical: Small things tend to inhabit our space more intimately, and sitting on our shelves and desks, they can often serve a dual purpose. Some of the 100 sculptures shown here, however, emerge from the opposite end of this thought process, imitating little things we use and turning them into static shapes we can’t. Tony Matelli’s￠ 27 (2021) is a glass with a gel of 27 cents embedded in polyurethane. With Daniel (2017), Andrew Ross takes a plastic cast of a cherry bomb, 8th hour (perpetual night) n ° 1 (2020) manifests a fondant bronze candle by Nicole Nadeau, and Dixie Cup (rejected) (2018) finds a Dixie Cup electrolytically crushed by Shelter Serra. All these objects are rendered useless by their material metamorphosis.
Still channeling Darwin, we can also examine the company these small objects keep: each of the two “cabinets of curiosity” in 100 sculptures has three wide shelves providing an expanse of ground in which to create environments and relationships between works. At Urs Fischer Untitled (2013), a painted earth dove of peace surmounted by a fleshy egg, is close to that of Remy Cherry Remy (1) (2018), a rose quartz egg with oil painted ornaments, which stands next to Daniel Giordano My Clementine LXLV (so good) (2020), a spotted and humble Raku ceramic globe that embodies two readings of the fertility symbol sphere: the egg and the fruit. Ray Johnson’s simple, undated and untitled wood block with a bunny in black and white, seems to share little with Ryan Foerster’s Modeling for dinner (2018) behind him on the bottom shelf. Even when two objects seem to share little, the very tension of their dissimilarity turns out to be productive, making us aware of the codes and taxonomies we use to give meaning to works of art. The first participates in this status because of the fact that it is inscribed with a mystical image of leporidae, and the second because it is an intriguing colorful abstract object perched on top of a support, legitimizing it by as art. They may not be the same gender or family, but they definitely inhabit the same kingdom.
So, with a set of samples like this on hand, is it just for some casual fun looking at 100 small pieces of sculpture? Of course not, there is also a lot to learn here. At this kind of scale, the intention is not to crush, but to be direct. Very few works appear to be leftovers or rubbish. Like Darwin’s research on animal species, the alien qualities of the unknown are often dazzling, but we only begin to understand them by comparison with what we already know. What struck me about this sculpture exhibition in the age of NFT and digital insubstantiality is the presence of things that artists have known and used for thousands of years. Elizabeth Kley’s Small Colorful Earthenware Beaker Cylinder with green leaves (2015); Sage Schachter Lucky mug (2020), a cute, warped little drinking vessel apparently mired in its own spilled milk; Love / Hate vase (working title) (2021) by Roxanne Jackson, a tattooed amphora enhanced with very kissable red lips; and that of Emily Mullin Flex all day (2018), bringing everything back to the start with a simple vase bud and an even simpler geometric icing, all these works bring us back to the fundamentals, and thus give us a precious light on the task of artistic innovation. If the sculpture did, in fact, begin with a vase, or a cup, or a bowl, the implication is that the medium was always a frame to contain or display what was already there.